Tuesday Titans: The Mighty Minolta XK Motor

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The Legendary Minolta XK Motor of 1976. Sorry for this funky Instagram pic, I’ll probably replace it 🙂

Hi everybody. Let’s start 2016 off with a bang with this ultra-rare Camera Legend, where info is scarce even on the best Minolta/Rokkor sites…

Somewhere in the deep, dark corridors of my camera memory lurks a giant. A giant that frightened and fascinated me at the same time. That giant is the Minolta XK Motor.

The XK Motor is a 35mm SLR introduced by Minolta in 1976. It was marketed as a professional camera and was Minolta’s answer to the Canon F-1 and Nikon F/F2.

The XK Motor is ultra-rare and hard to find in today’s market.

MY MEMORIES AND DREAMS OF THE MINOLTA XK MOTOR

As a kid, I still remember seeing this gigantic brute of a camera in magazine articles and ads. It was a camera that seemed frighteningly large, muscular, and complicated to a young boy. Yet at the same time, for a skinny young kid, this camera’s muscular build signaled “power” in my mind.

I wanted it bad, but I knew I’d never get one. Or so I thought…


HOW I CAME ACROSS THE MINOLTA XK MOTOR CAMERA

Fast forward some thirty plus years. About four years ago in 2012, I saw two XK Motors listed on KEH Camera in BGN (bargain) condition, priced at about $500 each. Right away, knowing the rarity of these cameras, I had to get one!

Fortunately, it was one of those rare times when I actually had enough in the bank. Sure it still hurt to part with $500, but hey man, this was the Minolta XK Motor! Gotta have it! 🙂

So I got one, and if I had the funds, I’d probably have gotten the other too, but I didn’t have any funds left and it quickly went to someone else.

Though I can’t check 24/7, I do check KEH’s site fairly often. I’ve never seen the XK Motor before or since on KEH’s site. My theory is someone sold these two from their collection to KEH and it quickly went up for sale.

THE XK MOTOR BODY

When I first got the camera, I was in awe. This thing was solid, heavy, and just as in my dreams, seemingly powerful.

The body feels blocky, much like other cameras of its time such as its slated competitors, the Nikon F/F2 and the Canon F-1.

Unlike those two cameras, the motor drive is permanently attached on the XK Motor. The motor drive was capable of a (then) “high” of 3.5 frames per second at its top speed.

The camera required two EPX-76 or S-76 alkaline or silver batteries for the body and ten, count ’em, TEN AA batteries for that motor drive. With batteries installed, this camera got heavy fast!

The camera had electronic shutter speeds of 16 seconds to 1/2000th of a second and mechanical shutter speeds of 1/100 and B.

ISSUES

Shortly after I got the XK Motor, I realized it is not without issues. While my first roll of film went off without a hitch, I quickly realized there was one glaring achilles heel (or heels in this case) with this giant.

That fault is…the battery clips that hold the epic ten batteries are brittle and worse, they eventually break rendering the great “motor” portion of the camera virtually useless. They broke off on both sides of my XK Motor and believe me I did not do anything rough to cause it.

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“Chipped Clips” The battery clip issue is the main thing that ruined my XK Motor experience. If seeking one of these cameras, be aware that this is an unfortunately common thing with these cameras.

And if that wasn’t enough, trying to find a replacement for these clips is harder than finding a needle in a haystack!

Sure, I have tried the old fashioned method of taping the broken clips. As you can see from the pics, that is exactly what I did but it didn’t work well. The tape would eventually come off and one time the battery compartment on one side got incredibly hot and I had to quickly remove the batteries for fear of fire.

If you think the broken battery clips were just my error, take a look at this link from KEH BLOG from 2011.

They had an XM Motor for sale in EX+ condition for $1950 with one catch…”battery door broken” 🙂

WHY I SOLD THE XK MOTOR

I recently sold this camera to a private buyer who was willing to buy it as is for the same price I bought it for. The great thing about these old legendary cameras is that you could almost always sell them without much of a loss.

It may seem unscrupulous to sell the camera in worse condition for the same price I bought it, but these babies are rare and the last one I saw was on eBay where it was sold as a parts camera. Bidding went over $500, so I definitely think I gave a fair price.

It became an unusable paperweight for me and the climax of a dream that became a nightmare.

This camera could have easily become one of my “Best Cameras I Never Knew” but it’s such a rare camera that I was honored to have had a chance to hold and use one in the flesh, fulfilling one of my childhood fantasies.

X-1 XK XM DIFFERENCES

There is actually a non motor driven version of this camera. The ones sold is the USA are known as the XK and known elsewhere around the world as the XM or X-1.

While the XK Motor is ultra-rare, the standard XK/XM/X-1 are not as rare. Many people mistakenly buy these thinking they are the XK Motor, but they are not, and they do not command the same high prices.

Cool you say, couldn’t I just buy an old motor drive and turn my XK/XM/X-1 into an XK Motor? In theory, you could’ve, but sorry there was no motor drive option for these cameras which is one of the reasons the XK Motor still holds its place among the Camera Legends of Minolta.

BOTTOM LINE

The Minolta XK Motor was a dream camera for a young boy that turned into hard reality for a grown man.

It was Minolta’s answer to the Canon F-1 and Nikon F/F2. Unlike the Canons and Nikons, the Minolta XK Motor had one glaring and seemingly incomprehensible fault…weak battery clips!

Despite their ability to make some of the world’s finest cameras and lenses, there IS a reason why Minolta never made it to the top in the world of Canon and Nikon pro bodies. A flaw such as weak battery clips is totally unacceptable for a professional grade body such as this.

If you search the internet for the XK Motor, you will find precious little information from actual users. You will not see much on the battery clip issue either. Why? Because there is not much info on this camera in general, it’s that rare.

In usable form, the Minolta XK Motor is a dream camera to hold and use. It was a culmination of Minolta’s dream to rule the professional camera world. It was a dream ruined by flawed execution, but that doesn’t matter in the end. The Minolta XK Motor represented the power of Minolta and what could have been. It is, without a doubt, a Camera Legend.

WHERE TO BUY?

If looking for an XK Motor, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are very hard to calculate due to its rarity on the market.

I got mine for $500 at KEH Camera in Bargain condition. But they also had one five years back in EX+ condition for $1950. The last one I saw on eBay was an “as is” parts camera which went for over $500 in 2013.

So I would say in pristine working condition, these cameras could easily fetch anywhere from $1500-2000 and maybe more.

If you want a taste of the XK Motor without using a fine toothed comb, you could easily get the ‘regular’ XK/XM/X-1. Prices for these can go anywhere from $50-300. I would not pay more than $100 for one. In fact, I got one of these for $56 bucks! 🙂

Note: I do have pics from my test roll with this camera and the 50mm f/1.2 Rokkor. But it’s not on a hard drive, it’s on a photo CD and I can’t find it. I do not think these test pics are worthy of your time, but I am still looking for them and may or may not post them. But it is proof that at one time, the Mighty XK Motor worked and gave me some nice pics!

 

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14 thoughts on “Tuesday Titans: The Mighty Minolta XK Motor

      1. Hi Rick, nice to hear from you and sorry to hear you have the same issues! I sold mine so I can’t do it, but have you tried the rubber bands?

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  1. Hi, I believe the camera first went on sale in 1973 after exhibitions in 1972 ? Ther battery clips mainly fail when the battery compartment is empty and therefore the clips can be squeezed in to far. When batteries are in they can not be squeezed so far. I have info on trying to get these replicated by 3D PRINTING so far no one seems able to do that ? It would be easy to build into a 3D design screw holes to reposition old terminal contacts. A part of a rubber tyre inner tube has also been used to secure the
    ends. minolta4me-kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for the info! I believe I may have heard about the 3D Printing before on an eBay article. Was that you? Anyway, I really wish someone would do it, but I guess the XK Motor being so few and rare, there’s probably not a lot of demand for this service. However, if I still had it, man I would’ve loved to have someone fix the battery clip issue for me! Thanks for your insights.

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    2. Hi again, I just “sold” my XK Motor but it failed and the mirror jammed on it/s final test. Google minolta4me-kevin and you will see video of the DISASTER in real time on my flickr albums. Thank fully it happened to me not the new buyer, who I know is disappointed. But if I fix it, he will get first option at £1,250 but if not keep a look out for the body [fixed or not] the motor working, the 250 exposure back ! and any other accessories I decide to include, like the neat leather grip.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Kevin sorry to hear about this! I’ve sent you an email through gmail, would love to see what happened on your video. Thanks.

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  2. I still have one. same issue with battery clips. It has had black electrical tape around the battery compartment for years. It will be a main feature in the 1970’s era display in a camera museum we are opening in Henry county Ga next Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Scott, awesome to hear you got one, and more importantly, it’s working! When you open the museum, please send me a link or notice if you can. If I’m ever down there, would love to stop by and check it out. Thanks!

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  3. Egbert,
    A late respons i have a xm motor i used it years without no problems with broken clips the 10 AA baterrije are Always in the camera i use lithuim the live very long and do not leak 3000mah each i do not think the xm motor failed because of the clips it was more the led driven electronich seaker and the fact the motor was not removebel. In fact the xm motor was to modern for the pro,s back in 1973. It was it time years ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Egbert, nice to hear that you had an XM Motor that worked for 10 years! I wished mine lasted that long. I’m not saying the clips were the reason it failed, but suggesting it may be one factor because many of them do have this failure. Anyway, the XM/XK Motor was truly an awesome camera when it worked and it was a dream come true for me to actually use one. Thanks for your comments!

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